Aftermath of the Grantsville Fire of June 14, 1919
The most disastrous fire in the history of the town occurred Saturday night about nine o'clock when the Masonic Hall, in which was also located the Calhoun County Bank, the postoffice, Dr. J. A. Morford's office, the Peoples Bank building, including the apartments occupied by Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Price and those used for Lee Ice and family, the offices of Dr. J. B. Law, Justice H. and Attorney J. T. Waldo, the building occupied by Deems and Price's confectionery, the box sill of the building under construction by George W. Hamilton, the Hardman building, the first floor of which being occupied by the _________Store & Produce Co., the second floor by the apartments of Ira Hardman and family and Fred Hardman and family, and the residence occupied by W. R. Stalnaker and family, and on Court Street the residences of Bernard Marshall and S. J. Turner. Within less than two hours after the first cry the fire had assumed definite bounds, but in that short time five business buildings and three residences were razed and eight families were without homes.
Grantsville After Fire of June 14, 1919
The origin of the conflagration will probably never be known but it is more than likely that a bolt of lightening struck the Peoples Bank building perhaps igniting a gas leak. This theory seems plausible, as Mr. Ice came down from his room after one very hard crash and inquired of Cashier B. G. Stump if there had been a gas explosion in the building. Mr. Stump said there was very loud report in the banking room.
In about an hour after that the fire was discovered breaking thru the second story of the Peoples bank building on the side next the postoffice. The flames spread through the building and those who rushed up the stairs were compelled to retreat without being able to fight the fire or saving the contents on that floor. All hands were turned to removing the furniture from the postoffice and the Peoples Bank, the buildings then under immediate destruction. By this time the flames had reached the Masonic hall and a valiant and successful fight was made to confine the fire to the block in which it had caught and to save the block extending north from G. S. Smith's store. The most serious danger this block was in was while Bernard Marshall's house was burning when the west corner of the building containing the barber shop and E. Chenoweth's office caught. The blaze was extinguished by men who remained on the roof when the flames went higher than their heads.
There was no effort made to stop the fire in the block wiped out except by the dynamite squad who first attempted to blow the ell off the R. W. Bennett building, which would have saved the Home Hotel and everything below it. Further attempts were made in the same manner but there was not enough time to plant the charges where they would have been most effective.
When it was seen that the Hardman residence, occupied by W. R. Stalnaker, had caught effort was made to save K. M. Hunt's residence. It would take the most uptodate fire engines in the world to do better work than was done there, and by the coolheaded and efficient this building was not even touched by the flames.
No one was seriously injured by the fire but two small dogs one belonging to Johnson Bennett and the other to Lee Ice were burned to death. Most of the stuff on the first floor of the buildings that burned was saved though a great deal of merchandise was damaged in removing it.. The merchants claim they could have saved all their goods if they had not been compelled to get out of danger of the dynamite.
We are unable to place an estimate on the total damage sustained, as the men who suffered the losses have not exactly determined them
The Calhoun County Bank succeeded in removing practically everything, including the counter and wicket work. The Masons in the same building, saved nothing but the Master's chair, records and aprons. There was $1500 insurance on this building.
Everything was removed from the postoffice except a typewriter desk and a chair, there was nothing of any great value remaining in the office. Dr. J. A. Morford, whose office was on the second floor, lost everything except a part of his library.
Everything was taken out of the Peoples Bank except the counter and one chair. The front door, with its large plate glass was saved, but the large window was destroyed. Of course an effort was made to move the safes, as was the same with the Calhoun County Bank. Nothing was saved from the second floor of the Peoples Bank building. A heavy loss was sustained by Justice Waldo, who is also town collector, as some very important records were lost.
Deems & Price had $2500 insurance on their stock of goods, but have sustained a very heavy loss. They had two fountains and one of them was removed to the street, though badly damaged in moving.
George W. Hamilton, who had a building under construction for a grocery store and confectionery, had put a stock of goods in the former dining room of the Home Hotel but saved nearly everything except loose articles on the shelves.
Ira Hardman saved about half of his stock of goods on the first floor but didn't save much from his living apartments on the second floor or from his furnishing establishment on the third. W. R. Stalnaker saved most of his household good. Bernard Marshall saved everything but two very costly pieces of furniture and a fine set of silverware. S. J. Turner saved all the watches left in his care but lost much of his household effects.
Grantsville is without adequate means to combat fire. Early in 1915 the town ratified a proposition to issue bonds for a water system but the denomination of the bonds was not desirable and they were not sold. No doubt the greater part of this loss could have been averted had a constant stream of water played on the flames.
Submitted by Norma Knotts Shaffer.